Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry ShortcakeMakes 6 servings

This recipe uses a rich biscuit dough, made especially tender with heavy
cream, sour cream, and an egg yolk. The shortcakes should baked soon before serving, but if baked earlier, you can reheat them in a warm oven for a few minutes. You can also prepare the dough and cut out the rounds ahead of time and refrigerate for up to 2 hours before baking. Strawberry shortcake must be made with the ripest, most succulent, in-season berries, or not at all. If you don’t grow your own, buy them at a local farmers market.

2 pints strawberries
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour (dip dry measure into flour to overflowing and sweep off excess with a straight edge)
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Remove the stems from the strawberries. Rinse berries, pat dry gently on paper towels, and halve, quarter, or slice them, depending on their size. Put the berries into a medium bowl, taste them, and add 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar according to their sweetness. Set aside.

2. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have ready a large ungreased heavy baking sheet.

3. For the shortcakes, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the cold butter and cut it in with a pastry blender until the particles resemble medium-fine crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, sour cream, and egg yolk. Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the dough just holds together. You may still see some dry particles. Reach into the bowl with your hands and squeeze the dough together, incorporating any dry particles. The dough will be firm and feel a bit tacky.

4. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it out to a ¾-inch thickness. With a floured 3-inch round cutter, stamp out 4 biscuits and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, kneading them together until smooth, and pat out again as before. Cut 2 more biscuits. Place them on the baking sheet. (If not ready to bake, cover the biscuits loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours; bring to room temperature before baking).

5. Brush the tops of the biscuits lightly with the 1 tablespoon heavy cream and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a biscuit comes out clean. Cool shortcakes on the baking sheet.

6. Meanwhile, whip the cream and vanilla until the cream holds a stiff shape. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

7. With a sharp serrated knife, carefully split the biscuits in half horizontally, reassemble them, and replace them on the baking sheet. The biscuits should be warm when assembling the shortcakes. If necessary, pop them into a 200 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Brush the cut surfaces of the biscuits with 2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter in all, and spoon some of the berry juices over them. Reserve 6 strawberry slices or halves for the final decoration. Set the bottom halves of the shortcakes on dessert plates and heap them with the remaining strawberries and juices. Spoon large dollops of cream over the berries and cover with the shortcake tops. Place small spoonfuls of whipped cream on the top of each shortcake and set reserved strawberries on the cream. Serve immediately with knives and forks.

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